Designed by Captain Patrick Ferguson (1744-1780), the Ferguson rifle was the first effective breech-loader used by the British Army. It was more accurate, easier to load and had a greater effective range than the muzzle-loading Brown Bess musket. However, the rifles were expensive to produce and considered fragile.
During the American War of Independence (1775-1783) Ferguson commanded a detachment of men armed with these weapons drawn from the light companies of the 6th and 14th Regiments of Foot. After Ferguson's death in the Battle of King's Mountain, South Carolina, in 1780, breech-loading firearms were not re-introduced into British service until the middle of the nineteenth century. Only a handful of these rifles exist today, making it one of the rarest weapons in the Museum's collection.
When Robert Weil started collecting images for the Contemporary Makers book in 1973 the challenge to record contemporary gun work was daunting. Gathering material was difficult and time consuming. Few makers thought that there was any value in published documentation of their work. Electronic publishing has changed all that. Having a website or having one's work available to view on the internet is becoming a necessity. In spite of all the potential to finally have a true overview of what's being produced by the artists of today, a great deal of work still remains covered up and basically unknown. Our role is to make an effort to document some portion of what’s going on today. To comment on the established makers and to uncover the unknown. We welcome your comments and suggestions and look to you our readers to make us aware of the talented makers out there. Art and Jan Riser Robert Weil and The Makers